ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Pythons, iguanas, monitor lizards, oh my! Florida is moving to restrict 16 invasive reptile species that have wreaked havoc in the Everglades and across the state.
Burmese pythons, in particular, have been especially destructive to native wildlife.
“Breeding invasive species in Florida is like playing with matches in a tinder box,” said Julie Wraithmell, vice president and executive director of Audubon Florida.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted Thursday to move these animals to a prohibited list. That means they can only be brought to Florida for exhibition, such as a zoo, or at a research facility.
The rules are complicated. Once they take effect, pet owners and others who have these species will have 180 days to ensure the creatures come into compliance with outdoor caging rules.
Iguanas and tegu lizards can be sold commercially until June 30, 2024. After that date, their sale in Florida will be banned. Both are very well established throughout South Florida.
“I'm very sensitive to the people in the pet trade and enthusiasts,” said Robert Spottswood, a member of the Florida commission. “But this action is a result of the invasive species that continue to get in the wild. These animals are doing lots of damage and we are incumbent to do something.”
According to the wildlife commission, there are more than 500 non-native species in Florida. Most have been brought in through the live animal trade and then escape or are released into the wild.